Reviews

CBC Books, 12 Days of CanLit: Science and Nature, Dec. 12, 2011

Nikola Tesla lived in a mad, mad world: one where he could foresee the advent of climate change more than 100 years ago — and was scorned by his peers for such a prediction. (Well, it didn’t help that he had a lot of other crazy ideas too.) But now, as we experience a wave of unprecedented environmental changes, Tesla doesn’t seem so crazy after all. In fact, he seems like the outside-of-the-box, forward-thinking visionary we need today. This is the premise of technology writer Tyler Hamilton’s book Mad Like Tesla. Hamilton’s quest for the next Tesla introduces readers to an engineer who claims he can harness the energy of man-made tornadoes and a businessman who creates ethanol-secreting algae. The journey is hare-brained and mad-cap, but some of these ideas are so crazy they just might work. You’d be mad not to get this riveting read for the science geek in your life.

 

The Conspiracy Show, Zoomer Radio AM740, Nov. 13, 2011

“A real page-turner!” That’s what Richard Syrett, host of the Conspiracy Show on AM740, called Tyler Hamilton’s book Mad Like Tesla during an hour-long interview that links the life of Serbian-American engineer Nikola Tesla to modern-day inventors trying to solve the world’s most pressing energy problems. After a discussion about Tesla and his well-documented rivalry with Thomas Edison, Hamilton talks about efforts to extract fuel from algae, electricity from tornadoes, energy out of atomic fusion, and efficiencies out of nature. Listen to the podcast here.

 

New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, book review, Nov. 12, 2011

Tyler Hamilton makes it clear that 99.9 per cent of these madmen/women owe a great deal to Tesla. Not only is the technology Tesla was developing still relevant and in use today, but these underdog innovators also have been ostracized like Tesla was, in their pursuit of clean energy. Everything, no matter how implausible or expensive or crazy, is possible. Be it beaming solar power from space or nuclear fission, or making fuel refineries out of algae, all these characters are fascinating and Hamilton’s journalistic style makes their theories understandable and riveting for the layperson. What’s refreshing about Mad Like Tesla is the lack of cynicism. There is genuine hopefulness in the writing and this hopefulness is the same fueling the subjects/scientists.

 

Skeptically Speaking, syndicated radio show, Oct. 16, 2011

Desiree Schell, host of Edmonton-based radio talk show Skeptically Speaking (CJSR 88.5 FM), profiles Mad Like Tesla in a lengthy interview with author Tyler Hamilton, who also answers several listener questions during this one-hour show. Skeptically Speaking is rebroadcast through 21 FM stations across Canada. Hamilton chatted about the many clean energy entrepreneurs profiled in his book, and addressed a range of topics including nuclear fusion, carbon capture and sequestration, the promise and hype around biofuels, and accusations of patent-hogging by large corporations accused of holding back potentially disruptive energy innovations.

 

TreeHugger, Oct. 10, 2011

Mad Like Tesla: Underdog Inventors and Their Relentless Pursuit of Clean Energy is Hamilton’s tribute to modern scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs who, like Tesla, keep trying to change the world, despite “scientific group-think, bad timing, entrenched corporate interests, misplaced public fear, gaps in available technology, high cost, resource scarcity, personality clashes, lack of financing, resistance to change, complacency, competitive rivalry, misguided policy, lack of vision, and general ignorance.” … After writing about this kind of stuff for a couple of years, one can become jaded and cynical about every inventor of a car that runs on water or whatever. How refreshing to read a book by a writer who knows his stuff, appreciates what he is looking at, and still has the positive enthusiasm of a little kid. Many science and technology writers could learn a lot from Tyler Hamilton.


The Washington Post , Sept. 26, 2011

During the early 20th century, many people wrote Nikola Tesla off as a mad scientist. Which he was, sort of. Near the end of his life, the Serbian inventor claimed that he had developed plans for a death ray (never built). But Tesla also was instrumental in developing alternating current (AC) networks, perfected the fluorescent light bulb and snapped the first X-ray photograph. In “Mad Like Tesla,” Tyler Hamilton, a technology writer for the Toronto Star, profiles nine of today’s modern thinkers and corporations with similarly outre but possibly useful visions for producing electricity. California-based Solaren hopes to collect solar energy from an orbiting platform and use microwaves to beam it down to Earth. Louis Michaud, a Canadian engineer, describes his plan to use waste heat from power plants to produce a “tornado” in a contained environment, then use that force to drive power-generating turbines. Laugh now, but, according to Hamilton, those tornadoes might be keeping the lights on some day.

 

CBC News (Technology and Science), Sept. 26, 2011

A “mechanical” nuclear fusion reactor, algae that is genetically modified to make ethanol and an electrical storage device that promises to power an electric car 800 kilometres on a 30-second charge. These are some of the clean energy technologies explored by journalist Tyler Hamilton in his new book, Mad Like Tesla: Underdog Inventors and their Relentless Pursuit of Clean Energy.

 

Amazon.ca “Top 100 Bestsellers” list, Sept. 25, 2011

Mad Like Tesla has cracked the Top 100 list at Amazon.ca, making the book — from one perspective, at least — a Canadian bestseller. The surge in interest followed an episode of CBC Radio’s Quirks & Quarks, during which show host Bob McDonald interviewed author Tyler Hamilton about the fine line between crazy ideas and pure genius, and the importance of risk-taking during our search for disruptive energy innovations.

 

CBC Radio’s Quirks & Quarks, Sept. 24, 2011
Host Bob McDonald’s interview with Tyler Hamilton

Clean energy technology journalist Tyler Hamilton is fascinated by Nicola Tesla.  The iconic inventor basically devised our modern electrical system.  But Tesla was a dreamer, and so many of his ideas and inventions were ahead of their time that it was impossible for his peers to tell if they were visionary ideas or delusional fantasies.  Hamilton says we have the same problem with modern inventors in the green energy field.  Their innovative ideas are potentially revolutionary, but sometimes it’s hard to tell if they are brilliant, mad or brilliantly crazy.  In his new book, Mad Like Tesla: Underdog Inventors and their Relentless Pursuit of Clean Energy, Hamilton profiles some of these inventors and their ideas, which might just help power our world in the future. Listen to show segment here.

 

New York Journal of Books, Sept. 1, 2011

Canadian science writer Tyler Hamilton has given the scientific community working on renewable energy solutions a public relations boost with his illuminating and important book, Mad Like Tesla: Underdog Inventors and Their Relentless Pursuit of Clean Energy… In his compelling introduction, Hamilton skillfully lays out the eternal predicament of innovators throughout history. He quotes Raymond Damadian who built the first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner in 1977, in spite of critics who said it could never be done. “The bolder the initiative, the harsher the criticism.” Mr. Hamilton writes of case after case of famous “breakthrough” inventions, which were considered lost causes in their day and are now indispensable.

 

CBC Radio Summer Series “Out Of Their Minds,” Episode 10, Aug. 29, 2011

Media Mention: Host Richard Syrett concludes this 10-part series by looking at whether inventors of disruptive technologies are truly out of their minds or technological prophets ignored in their own land. For this episode Syrett interviewed Tyler Hamilton, author of Mad Like Tesla, to get a sense of what makes lone inventors tick, and why they’re lumped into the mad scientist category. Listen to the podcast of the episode “What Makes Them Tick?” or download in MP3 format by clicking here.

 

Publisher’s Weekly review, July 18, 2011

Hamilton, energy columnist for the Toronto Star, examines an array of ambitious ideas for alternatives to fossil fuels, such as nuclear fusion, space-based solar power, and man-made tornadoes. Hamilton argues that even if inventors on the fringe fail to develop new sources of energy “they still succeed by leading, by taking risks, by pursuing great leaps, and by keeping open minds when others remain so closed.” Hamilton’s vivid portrait of some of the people touting new technologies offers insight into why they’ve had trouble finding mainstream acceptance: one researcher who lays claim to inventing a machine that generates more power than it consumes–considered a scientific impossibility–drew the attention of musician Neil Young who entered a contest to design a car that achieves 100-miles-per-gallon.

 

Library Journal review, July 15, 2011

VERDICT: Mad Like Tesla is easy to get through, even for readers with only a basic knowledge of energy issues. Hamilton makes complex technologies comprehensible, and he clearly enjoys the remarkable human stories behind the science. Many of the risk takers and visionaries portrayed are Canadian (rocker Neil Young makes a cameo appearance!), but this book’s strong appeal should transcend all borders.

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